Damn. – Kendrick Lamar
To Pimp A Butterfly was my favourite release of 2015. The way Lamar combined a 70s sound with politically charged lyrics meant that, despite the almost eighty-minute playtime, the record never became a chore. After conquering the second album slump so elegantly, I was intrigued to see if his new release lived up to the hype.
With ‘Damn’ Lamar moves away from the funk and soul sampling featured on TPAB and embraces a diverse array of sounds. ‘Love’ could easily sit alongside the Weekend and Drake, with its radio friendly beats and chart-ready hook. Pride is a downer, all weird reverby chords, falsetto and strung out bars. Whilst opener Blood uses strings and a bass line reminiscent of an Ennio Morricone score played under a down-tempo spoken word piece.
Lamar’s lyrics and delivery are no less varied, with moments of raw fury one moment leading into crushing depression the next. While Damn may not achieve the same critical reception as its predecessor, Lamar’s simultaneously vulnerable and confrontational journey throughout the album will certainly win over an entirely new collection of fans.
LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
One of the best dance albums of all time, Sound of Silver is the work of crackpot genius James Murphy distilling all his musical idols into one super potent, sweaty party record.
Sonically ‘Sound of Silver’ is all over the place – bouncing bass lines straddle swarms of synthesized blips and unrelenting percussive thumping. The band extends these sounds and ideas to the 6 to 7 minute mark, allowing them to reach their logical, cathartic conclusion, yet never becoming stale.
Throughout, Murphy’s lyrical introspections on aging and past relationships, are filled with glib self-aware humour but also disarming emotion. This is most notable on the track ‘All My Friends’ with lines like ‘I wouldn’t trade one stupid decision for another five years of life’. Moments such as these, when combined with Murphy’s throaty delivery provide the album’s heart, elevating it from a mere collection of indie-dance bangers to culture defining status.
As Above, So Below – Patrons
And now over to last issues cover stars Patrons with their debut ‘As Above, So Below’. A definite requirement for getting the most from this album is a good set of speakers. From the opening kick drum on ‘The First Of The Slow Burners’, Patrons let it be known that they pack a mean rhythm section all jabbing, punctuating bass and drums through each of this album’s tracks.
One of my favourite things about this record is how much fun the band has playing around with loud-soft dynamic. Indeed most tracks start off slow with a gently sung verse or two, before completely obliterating any sense of calm with guttural howls and thrumming guitars. A particular stand out is ‘The Art Of Conversation’ which manages this balancing act the best, resulting in the most satisfying ending to any song on the record.
‘As Above, So Below’, then, is a confident LP from a promising band, with just a little more experimentation structurally, and stylistically, this could be a truly excellent album.